A mother or baby dies from delivery related infection every minute.
Hundreds of thousands of mothers and babies die each year in developing countries due to complications at the time pregnancy, delivery or immediately after delivery. A significant proportion of these deaths are due to infections caused by unhygienic environments and practices at the time of birth. Almost 100% of these infection-related deaths are preventable.
The importance of clean safe care at birth preventing life threatening infections has been known for centuries. In 1795, doctor, Alexander Gordon, from Aberdeen, Scotland, demonstrated the contagious nature of delivery-related infection in mothers (puerperal fever) and how to prevent it. Over 200 years later mothers and babies around the world continue to lose their lives to infections acquired at the time of birth.
The fact that clean, safe care at the time of delivery can be achieved with simple, low cost interventions such as the use of antiseptics, sterile equipment, antibiotics, and even hand-washing with soap, makes these deaths even more unacceptable. In the 21st century, clean delivery should be universally available and a basic human right.
Addressing the situation of clean safe care at birth will help to reduce maternal and newborn deaths, and so accelerate towards the global goals of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. It will also help to catalyse wider improvements in the quality of maternity care, increase demand for care, and protect health workers.
A massive effort to eliminate delivery-related infection deaths is long overdue.